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Tymoshenko fines to pay for Russian gas?

KIEV, Ukraine, Oct. 13 (UPI) -- Kiev is considering using the money in the Tymoshenko natural gas case to purchase gas from Russia, the Ukrainian energy minister said.

Opposition leader and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison after being found guilty on charges she abused her power when she helped broker a 2009 gas deal with Gazprom.

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The deal helped get gas supplies going again after Gazprom cut supplies because of contract disputes, though Kiev says her deal damaged the economy.

Ukrainian Minister Yuri Boiko said Kiev might use the $189.5 million in penalties that Tymoshenko was ordered to pay to buy Russian natural gas, Russia's state-run news agency RIA Novosti reports.

"We will fulfill the court decision and if the money is transferred to (Ukrainian energy company) Naftogaz, it will be used to pay for gas supplies," he was quoted as saying.

Tymoshenko's backers in the West accused Kiev of political bias in the charges. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said he was surprised by the jail sentence because the 2009 contract is still on the books.

Lawmakers in Kiev are considering a series of bills that would reduce penalties for economic crimes.

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Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych suggested if they all pass, Tymoshenko's prison sentence could be commuted.

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